NewsForest Health

The new North

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Science  21 Aug 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6250, pp. 806-809
DOI: 10.1126/science.349.6250.806

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Summary

Last summer, in Canada's Northwest Territories, forest fires destroyed some 3.4 million hectares of forest—an area equal to the state of Maryland, and seven times the annual average. The fires died down in the autumn, when the snow fell. But for scientists, the work is just beginning. The fires, they say, were an extreme example of the forces transforming the boreal forest, a stronghold of spruce, pine, and other conifers that rings the top of the planet. With its millions of square kilometers of pristine timber, thick carpet of moss and needles, and organic-rich frozen soil, the boreal forest stores more carbon than any other land ecosystem. And more than any other forest, it is bearing the brunt of climate change, warming roughly twice as fast as the rest of the planet.